People of a certain generation will likely remember the moment when Saddam Hussein’s capture was announced at a news conference by US administrator Paul Bremer.
The former Iraqi President stood trial that lasted nearly three years before he was executed on December 30, 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity by the Iraqi Special Tribunal for the Dujail massacre. The massacre involved the killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites in the Iraqi town of Ad Dujayl in 1982 in retaliation for an assassination attempt against Hussein.
Where and when was Saddam Hussein executed?
While the exact time of the execution remains debated it is generally agreed that Saddam Hussein was executed sometime between 6 am and 6.10 am on December 2006 at a joint Iraqi-American military base called Camp Justice. Located in Kazimain, a north-eastern suburb of Baghdad, Camp Justice was likely the safest place in Iraq for the execution given the high profile status of Saddam Hussein.
According to some Iraqi officials, the Americans were not keen on carrying out the execution immediately and wanted to wait another fortnight. However, the Iraqi government provided all the paperwork they had asked for and so the execution was scheduled for December 30, 2006.
Technically, it wasn’t the Americans who executed Saddam Hussein but rather the Iraqi government that had been formed following the fall of the dictator. To be clear, Saddam’s fall was a direct result of an American-led coalition’s war against Iraq. America’s rationale for going to war was to remove ‘a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harboured and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world’. However, the Geneva Convention grants certain rights to Prisoners of War and prevents revenge-style execution. So, Saddam was tried not by the invaders but rather by the government in a country that he once ruled with an iron fist and for crimes committed on Iraqi soil. His trial was held in an Iraqi court and not an American one. As a result, while he remained in custody of the US Army, he had to be formally handed over to the Iraqis for carrying out the execution. It has been also reported that no American representatives were present at the time of Saddam Hussein’s execution.
How was Saddam Hussein executed?
As President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was also the commander of the Iraqi military. So when he was handed down the sentence, he requested to be executed by firing squad rather than by hanging as it was the lawful military capital punishment. The court denied this request.
On the morning of December 30, 2006, Saddam Hussein was made to walk to the gallows. He was reportedly carrying a copy of the Quran that had been with him throughout his trial. Saddam was said to have shown no remorse for his actions and was executed by hanging sometime between 6 am and 6.10 am. Reports suggest that there was a crack heard when the trapdoor under his feet opened up. This indicated the breaking of the neck. He was suspended for a few minutes as is practice and a doctor listened with a stethoscope for a heartbeat and confirmed his death.
Where was Saddam Hussein buried?
Following the execution, Saddam Hussein’s body was taken to Al-Awja, near Tikrit, in Iraq where he was buried on December 31, 2006. Al-Awaja was Saddam’s birthplace and where his family members including his sons Uday and Qusay were buried.
Saddam was buried in an octagonal domed building inside a family plot in Al-Awja that he had commissioned in the 80s to celebrate religious festival. However the tomb was destroyed in the fight between ISIS and the Iraqi State military forces. There is some debate about whether Saddam’s body was exhumed before the strikes and taken away elsewhere or it was destroyed along with the tomb. There is, of course, no way to confirm this given the chaos that had ensued before and after the battles.